The drums pounded and oars stirred the water in perfect rhythm–the experience was both invigorating and calming at the same time. This weekend, the Dragon Boat races came to Sloan’s Lake in Denver. Despite soaring temperatures, hundreds of metro residents came out to join the festivities. Just watching the boats glide across the water was enough to provide some relief from the heat:
The tents were filled with a beautiful assortment of local handmade gifts, imports, and foods. The Scientific & Cultural Facilities District had one of the shadiest tents, along with brochures about community programs. I noticed many people stopping by to enjoy the cool air, and learn about fun stuff like the Denver Urban Gardens, Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK), the James P. Beckworth Mountain Club, and free days for Colorado residents at places like the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the Denver Botanic Gardens, the Denver Zoo, and the Denver Art Museum. There were a number of other activities around the festival, including free Tai Chi lessons and demonstrations from the Taoist Tai Chi Society, my son’s event of choice.
I’ve been studying the history behind the lakes and canals in the Denver area, lately, so I figured I’d share this historical tidbit about the birth of Sloan’s Lake–it was an accident:
Sometime late in l862 or in the following year, Farmer Sloan dug a well in the bottom land at the north end of his farm. The next morning he discovered that the well had overflowed and flooded the valley in which it was located. ‘Word of the gushing well spread to the town of Denver. People rode out on horseback to see the phenomenon of Farmer Sloan’s well and talked as they watched the water spread. (One bystander exclaimed) “Why this has been a dry valley, dry as an ash pit. The Stage Road (Golden Post Road) to Georgetown ran through here”. When the water stopped running, Farmer Sloan had a lake of 200 acres on his farm.
Before the bed of Sheridan Boulevard was filled in and cut the lake in two, the lake extended at least one half mile farther west than its present western shore. Over time, the high ground above 25th Avenue was lowered to building level and excess soil dumped in this section of the lake, which was shallow and marshy. The remaining area was filled in as a dump until all of the lake west of Sheridan Boulevard had been reclaimed.
From Sloan’s Lake Park: From Indian Playground to Urban Oasis by William W. Johnston
Update (3:15pm): Sloan’s Lake in about 1890:
1890s photo via the Western History Photos collection at the Denver Public Library.